Christian joy can seem so elusive.
We experience moments when our hearts are filled with inexpressible gladness, and it is easy to rejoice in the Lord (1 Peter 1:8). Other times, we feel that we are living, in the words of the psalmist, “in a dry and thirsty land” (Psalm 63:1). Try as we might, joy cannot be found.
God doesn’t mind if we ask Him, “Why, Lord? How can I have more joy?” He wants us to seek Him for the answers. We will find the answers in His Word, the Holy Bible.
The Bible and joy.
The Bible has much to say about joy. Did you know that God has joy? According to the parables in Luke 15, God celebrates with the angels in heaven whenever a lost sinner turns to Christ. Zephaniah 3:17 says that God rejoices over His people “with shouts of joy”.
God’s kingdom is characterized by joy. There is “fullness of joy” in God’s presence (Psalm 16:11). In the kingdom ruled by Christ, we will have “everlasting joy…and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:10). Romans 14:17 describes the kingdom of God as “not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Joy is to be a hallmark of the Christian life.
A few hours before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). Jesus wants us to have His joy – in full. Additionally, God lists joy as a fruit of the Spirit that He wants to develop in our lives (Galatians 5:22).
God wants to give us His gift of joy. His will for you and me and all His children through Christ is JOY. An abundance of joy. Fullness of joy. Why? Because “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
“The joy of the Lord” gave Jesus the strength to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2). As we follow Jesus, we too can expect to encounter difficulties. We need His joy to sustain us so we can endure to the end and receive our heavenly reward.
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
But what does having fullness of joy mean for us?
Does it mean we should be happy all the time? Does it mean continual gladness and rejoicing, such as we will someday experience in heaven? Looking at the life of Jesus should help us find the answer. Jesus is our Example.
Did Jesus always appear joyful during His earthly life? No. He expressed anger toward the religious leaders who lacked compassion. He expressed grief over the unbelief of various cities and wept at the home of His deceased friend Lazarus. He prayed “with loud crying and tears” (Hebrews 5:7). And as Jesus hung on the cross, paying for our sins with His own blood, He seemed anything but joyful. Yet, through all these situations, Jesus did have joy.
Maybe we need to change our definition of biblical joy to encompass more than gladness and rejoicing. Consider the following definition of joy that Bible teacher Kay Warren developed based on her study of Scripture.
“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
If we think of joy in this way, it becomes more attainable. We can have joy even through difficult situations, as Jesus did, and the joy of the Lord will be our strength.
How can we have more of the joy of the Lord in our life?
It begins with what Jesus told His disciples, quoted above: “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).
Jesus’ words (also known as the Bible, God’s Word, and Holy Scripture) are living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). They are spirit and life (John 6:63). Jesus tells us to abide in His Word. We must pay attention to it, believe it, intentionally plant it in our heart through Bible meditation, and obey it. As we do these things, our faith in God will increase and He will impart His joy to us.
Delighting in Jesus’ Word is key to getting closer to Jesus and receiving His joy. Whether His joy manifests as great gladness or settled assurance, we must be thankful for the gift. It will be our strength and a powerful witness to others that Jesus makes a difference.
I have experienced this in my own life. On one particular day, I received from the Lord such an abundance of gladness that my heart and lips were continually rejoicing and it seemed nothing could take my joy away. The joy of the Lord truly was my strength. People who met me that day took notice. One woman in particular was very open to hearing the gospel because of the supernatural joy she saw in me.
Make joy a choice.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need the steady, consistent, joy and hope that only Jesus and His Word can give. Determine today to get closer to Jesus. Purpose to take hold of His Word even more. Ask Him to fill you with His joy. Thank Him that the joy of the Lord is your strength. That is His will for you.
“Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
Psalm 119:9-16 shows us how to intentionally plant God’s Word in our heart through Bible meditation. You can easily memorize this passage of Scripture by downloading the song-prayer combo of our Purity Spiritual Food Bar.
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